Originally published in Moody Church Media News Vol. 24 (4), November 2021.
To mask or not to mask? To vaccinate or not? Should vaccinations be mandatory or a matter of personal choice? Should children be required to wear masks at school? Even after this variant or any other has run its course, what comes next? I reply, plenty. With overwhelming questions like these, the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas doesn’t seem to have any relevance to the realities we face.
Jesus predicted pandemics like this, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:10–11, italics added).
Has COVID-19 been the fulfillment of His prediction? No, but it prefigures what is still to come. Just like a movie trailer, COVID-19 offers a picture of even worse pandemics at the end of days. In fact, of Death and Hades we read, “And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence…” (Revelation 6:8, italics added). Thankfully, I do not think that we as believers will be on Earth during these plagues. We see the trailer, not the movie.
Has COVID-19 been the judgment of God? Yes, all diseases, along with natural disasters and death itself, are the judgement of God, for “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). In this era, neither COVID-19 nor natural disasters separate the righteous from the wicked, for we all—even believers—are still being judged for our sins, both personal and corporate.
What does this have to do with Christmas? The angel Gabriel announced that Jesus came in the flesh to “save His people from their sins.” In order to accomplish this, He had to both die in our place and be raised—never to die again. In other words, the work of Jesus was not just for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for the redemption of our bodies. As a preview of this, when Jesus was here on Earth, He healed people to fulfill the words of Isaiah, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17; see Isaiah 53).
The Gospel, revealed in that baby in the manger, is the promissory note that COVID-19, and all its variants, do not have the last word. Personally, I’m ready for Christmas! Many of our friends died this year, a few from COVID-19, and others from heart attacks and cancers. I do not believe sorrow and joy are mutually exclusive. We can sorrow, but we can also sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
A young pastor told the moving story of his own child’s birth. His wife was in the hospital delivering their first child when the baby became stuck in the birth canal. Their little girl’s shoulder was in the wrong position! He panicked, of course, fearing the worst. But a doctor came over to him and looked directly into his eyes, saying, “In a few moments, there will be 20 people buzzing around in this room. I assure you—we know what we are doing, and everything will be okay!” And yes, everything turned out okay.
In this crazy world with voices shouting at us from all directions, the little baby in the manger is God whispering to us, “I know what I am doing, and everything is going to be okay!”
God did not abandon His sovereignty when COVID-19 arrived. This Christmas, let us turn off all the other voices vying for our attention and join to sing the familiar carols with renewed gusto and joy. God Himself has some advice for us in Mark 9:7: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!”